I’ve decided to make a new tradition at our house: making marshmallows during the holiday season. Actually, I want to try to have them available throughout the winter months because these aren’t just treats for topping hot cocoa. These, my friend, are traditional marshmallows that are made with marshmallow root. Marshmallow root is a mucinogen, meaning that it forms mucin through the imbibition of water. Which is a fancy-pants way of saying that soaking the root in water makes a mucous like substance great for digestive upsets or sore throats. The root itself has been used medicinally for hundreds of years but, I think, it has been largely lost in modern “plastic food” culture – maybe western medicine is a little to blame. Whatever it is, the general knowledge of marshmallow root benefits has been lost. Thanks to the interwebs anyone can look into it further though, which is pretty awesome.
To illustrate my point: I took these to playgroup on a particularly snowy day for everyone to enjoy. When I was asked about them I was also obliged to explain marshmallow root because no one really knew about it. I was happy to do this because I really enjoy talking about real food and how to make it, and everyone seemed really interested and surprised that marshmallows were originally used as medicine.
There is also the common mallow, which is essentially a weed. It grows everywhere here. One day, I was looking to see if it had any uses because of its abundance in my lawn and garden and I discovered that you can make a kind of marshmallow from the seed pods which are affectionately known as mini cheese wheels because that’s what they look like. Little girls in the country used to put them in their dollhouses for that reason. I have never tried to make marshmallows from the seed pods of the common mallow because of the sheer effort it would take to harvest them. Maybe if I get bored enough one day I’ll perform an experiment.
I had a little left and I got a sore throat so I ate a handful and they worked like a charm. I highly recommend these for kiddos with scratchy throats as well. Not only does the marshmallow root help, but the gelatin helps too, and while these are pretty sugary, I use honey so I feel a little better about giving them to little ones.
One thing to note: you can’t get the same soothing results with jet-puffed marshmallows you find at the store because they have less gelatin and no marshmallow root. Not to mention the corn syrup of questionable origins…
I have tried to make these without any sugar. This does not work. At all. The sugar is needed for the structure so it is non-negotiable. Another thing you cannot do is wait until after the water is heated to add the honey: it must be boiled with the water which is a shame because you lose honey’s beneficial enzymes, but I still think it beats white sugar.
1 tablespoons marshmallow root (Vitamin Cottage sells dried marshmallow root in their bulk spices section)
1 cup warm water
4 tablespoons unflavored gelatin powder
1 cup of honey
1 teaspoon vanilla or other flavor
2 tablespoons arrowroot starch
- Combine the marshmallow root with the warm water and let it steep for a minimum of 5 minutes. Strain when you’re ready to use.
- Pour 1/2 cup of the marshmallow water into a small saucepan with the honey.
- Pour the other 1/2 cup of water into a mixing bowl and add the gelatin. Whisk slightly and let sit.
- Slowly heat the honey and water until at least 240 degrees. If you don’t have a thermometer that goes that high, bring to a boil and stir constantly for 8 minutes.
- Turn on your mixer to medium speed and slowly pour the hot honey/water mixture into the gelatin mix, which will be hardened at this point.
- Once all of the honey water is added turn your mixer to high and whip for 10-15 minutes, until stiff peaks form. It will look exactly like marshmallow creme.
- Add the vanilla or flavoring of your choice in the last 5 minutes of whipping.
- While the mixer is whipping the marshmallows, lightly grease a 9×13 baking dish or line with parchment paper (parchment makes the removal super easy, but greasing the pan works almost as well).
- Pour the marshmallow fluff into the pan, smooth and let sit for 4 hours, preferably overnight.
- Turn out the marshmallow block onto a cutting board and cut into squares with a well-oiled knife.
- Toss with arrowroot starch and stow away in an airtight container.
These will last a couple of weeks at room temperature. Do not put them in the refrigerator: they will melt.